MADISON — Green Bay city officials pushed to hire felons as poll workers for the November presidential election, even as the city’s chief elections official warned against it, according to emails obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight.
The emails show then-City Clerk Kris Teske expressing her concern after Green Bay’s Human Resources Department and legal counsel pressed the issue.
“I have made know (Sic) over and over we should not be hiring felons. This is on HR. This blew up in my face a few years back,” Teske wrote to Diane Ellenbecker, the city’s finance director, in an email on Thursday, Sept. 10.
Ellenbecker had asked the clerk if she had “a recommendation either way, yes or no” whether a felon should be a poll worker.
“You have to work with them. Your opinion should be offered up with the direction the city should move forward with,” Ellenbecker said.
Earlier in the email chain, Lindsay Mather, Green Bay’s assistant city attorney sent an email saying she and Human Resources staffer Jennifer Smits had discussed a few poll worker applicants that had answered ‘yes’ to having been convicted of a felony. She said they were once again eligible to vote “and therefore eligible to be elections inspectors as well.”
“Jen had asked about whether the City could/should have a policy with respect to hiring inspectors who have felony convictions, so I reached out to a staff attorney for the WEC for more guidance,” Mather wrote in an email to Teske, Smits and Celestine Jeffreys, who was at the time chief of staff for Green Bay Democrat Mayor Eric Genrich.
The guidance came from Wisconsin Elections Commission staff attorney Nathan Judnic. Judnic told city officials that individuals who have lost their voting rights can regain them once they are “off paper.” That means they’ve completed supervision, probation and other court-ordered stipulations.
“So these individuals would be eligible to serve, but ultimately the ‘mayor, president or board chairperson of each municipality shall nominate to the government body’ the individuals they choose to present for consideration,” the WEC attorney wrote, citing Wisconsin statute.
Further, he said, elections officials would have to accept the list of poll worker nominees from the political parties unless there is “good cause” not to appoint them.
Teske wrote to the group that she was confused. City officials had received information on the eligibility of felons a few years before. She said the instructions were different then.
“A few years back, a felon couldn’t be a poll worker (even off paper). I was told at that time, by your HR Department, that anyone who checks the box as a felon has to go through HR. CCAP [online court records] isn’t a good source because it doesn’t show everything,” she wrote.
And then Teske added, “In the last two weeks we have had numerous applications by people who have been convicted of a felony.” She urged the city to come up with a policy or an ordinance as soon as possible “to put an end to the back and forth.”
The communications are part of hundreds of pages of emails and other documents obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight that show grant money from private left-leaning groups, funded largely by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, resulted in Democrat activists infiltrating the November presidential election in Wisconsin’s five largest cities.
Here’s what the emails and Wisconsin Spotlight’s investigation found:
- A former Democratic operative, Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, served as a de facto elections administrator and had access to Green Bay’s absentee ballots days before the election
- Spitzer-Rubenstein asked Green Bay’s clerk if he and his team members could help correct or “cure” absentee ballots like they did in Milwaukee.
- Green Bay’s clerk grew increasingly frustrated with the takeover of her department by the Democrat Mayor’s staff and outside groups.
- Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said the contract stipulated that Spitzer-Rubenstein would have four of the five keys to the KI Center ballroom where ballots were stored and counted.
- Brown County’s clerk said the city of Green Bay “went rogue.”
- Election law experts said the city illegally gave left-leaning groups authority over the election.
The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections will hold an informational hearing at 10 a.m. today on the general election. The Green Bay emails will feature prominently in the testimony. And election observers who saw Spitzer-Rubenstein “in action” on Election Night also will testify.